2011 NFL Combine - Safeties Analysis
Rahim Moore, DeAndre McDaniel, Robert Sands
Rahim Moore, DeAndre McDaniel, Robert Sands
Posted Mar 2, 2011

It's a rough, ROUGH year for safeties in the 2011 NFL Draft, and the teams that need them will likely have to overdraft and overpay. Which ones, if any, stood out at the Combine? Here are the rankings and breakdowns of the top safeties along with analysis of each top prospect.

2011 NFL Combine

Safety Post-Combine Rankings

2011 NFL Combine Results
- QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | Cs | OTs | OGs 
- DEs | DTs | ILBs | OLBs | Ss | CBs

2011 NFL Combine Position Analysis
- QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | Cs | OTs | OGs 
- DEs | DTs | ILBs | OLBs | Ss | CBs

1. Rahim Moore, UCLA (FS) 6-0, 202
Post-Combine Skinny: He looked every bit as smooth as expected. The 4.62 40 was a tad slow and the 11 reps on the bench were a problem, but he was flying … FLYING … around the shuttle and his stock didn't drop even with the poor 40.
Positives: Has a knack for getting to the ball and making plays. Was an interception machine as a sophomore with ten picks. … Moves like a corner and could end up moving outside if needed. He has the ball skills to be a playmaker no matter where he is. … Wants to be a player. He's a tough, smart player who wants to ball.
Negatives: A bit slight for a safety. A bit rangy and is built more like a corner. … A good tackler, but not a great one. He whiffs a bit too much in the open field. … Not an intimidator. He's a finesse defender who's better in coverage than in run support.

2. DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson (SS) 6-0, 217
Post-Combine Skinny: The 35" vertical was the high point. He ran well, was quick and fluid through the drills, and he measured big. The 4.65 40 was just good enough to get by, and it solidified him as a strong safety and not a free safety. Now he has to prove he can tackle better.
Positives: Excellent size and uses it well. He's like another linebacker but doesn't move like it. … Gets moving in a hurry. Cuts well and is good at planting and going. … A strong, willing tackler who isn't afraid to get his nose dirty. Not a finesse player, but he can run like one.
Negatives: Not the most secure tackler. Bounces a bit at times. … Not the best of coverage defenders. Made a slew of plays in college that he won't make in the pros. … Gets blocked way too easily. Gets buried.

3. Robert Sands, West Virginia (SS) 6-4, 217
Post-Combine Skinny: Struggled in the ball drills and didn't look natural. While he's a freak of nature because of his size, he also looked a bit out of place as he struggled and seemed to get down after a few mistakes. The 4.57 40 helped, and he was surprisingly quick for his size. The raw skills are there.
Positives: Extremely intruiging size and skills. He's a very tall, very cut 6-4 and he as intimidating as they come. … HUGE hitter. Blows up anyone with the ball and makes them think twice before ever coming his way. … Closes well. Great at helping out.
Negatives: A bit too stiff because of his size. Has a hard time dropping down and cutting. … A bit of an attitude. Needs to be pushed a bit and has to be coached up. … Still raw. He might be a strong nickel back and he'll need time to harness his unique skills.

4. Deunta Williams, North Carolina (FS) 6-2, 205
Post-Combine Skinny: He didn't run, but he measured well and is one of the bigger free safeties in the draft. He'll need a big workout at some point to move into the talk for the No. 3 safety, but he's still on the radar.
Positives: A very smart, very willing defender who does whatever he has to. He gets through the trash well to make tackles and is good in the open field. … Good athleticism for his size. Cuts well and is quick in his cuts. Great from Point A to Point B. … Nice ball skills. He could work tremendously well as a nickel or dime defender.
Negatives: Not a physical presence. He tries hard, but he gets pushed around when blocked. … Was helped by being surrounded by a loaded defense throughout his career. Messes were cleaned up. … Makes a lot of mistakes and isn't efficient at getting to the ball. Takes a lot of wasted steps.

5. Quinton Carter, Oklahoma (SS) 6-1, 208
Post-Combine Skinny: The 4.62 40 wasn't quite as poor as expected, and he moved well through the shuttle, even though he wasn't exactly smooth. The 23 reps on the bench helped the overall cause, and while scouts are split on him, it was a good overall workout.
Positives: A fantastic tackler. Was always around the ball and was a tough, strong player who did a ton of big things for the Sooners over the last two seasons. … Decent ball skills making four picks in each of the last two seasons. Tracks the ball and has nice hands. … Hits big. He isn't going to miss a lot of plays that come his way and he'll make plenty of big stops.
Negatives: Very, very tight. A strong safety only he doesn't move all that well. … Fast, but not smooth. He's a straight-line runner who doesn't cut all that well. … Not a natural to the ball. He takes too many wasted steps to get to the running play. He makes a lot of tackles, but he also whiffed a lot.

6. Jaiquawn Jarrett, Temple (SS) 6-0, 198
Post-Combine Skinny: He was supposed to make a splash, and he didn't. It wasn't a disastrous workout, but he only ran a 4.62 and he wasn't all that explosive. It's all about the tape with him, but considering he's from Temple, it would've been nice if he had done more.
Positives: Can play any safety position. He's built to play free safety but he tackles like a strong safety. … A great tackler with 2000 stops in four years. … Plays fast. Gets to the ball in a hurry and is great in coverage. He takes smart, crisp angles to the ball and tracks it well. Good football intelligence.
Negatives: Not all that big for a strong safety and isn't going to be a physical hitter. … An okay athlete, but not an elite one. Not a blazer. … A better football player than an athlete. There might be a hard limit on what he can do and might need to be surrounded by stronger, quicker defensive backs.

7. Tyler Sash, Iowa (SS) 6-0, 211
Post-Combine Skinny: It was a strong overall workout considering few expected him to be a top athlete. He ran a slowish 4.62 and the 11 reps were a problem for a player who's supposed to be a big hitter, but he moved well and he was quicker than thought.
Positives: A flat out baller. Hits like a ton of bricks and brings a big-time attitude to every play. … Plays big and is an intimidating force on the field, even if he doesn't look it. He's a tone-setter for a secondary who has a knack for coming up with the big play. Great with the ball in his hands. … Doesn't miss a stop. He's a strong safety who can be used like another linebacker.
Negatives: Needs to get stronger. He made a lot of plays in college that he won't be able to come up with as a pro. … Flies all over the place to deliver the big hit, and he might have a very, very short shelf life because of it. He didn't miss much time at Iowa, but he could be a regular on the IR as a pro. … An okay athlete, but hardly anything special. Purely a strong safety.

8. Ahmad Black, Florida (FS) 5-10, 184
Post-Combine Skinny: For a small free safety who has to make up for his size, the 4.76 was a draft killer. While he was extremely quick through the short drills, he didn't look natural and he wasn't a standout in the ball drills. He needs a stronger pro day.
Positives: Can play anywhere in the secondary. He's a free safety at the next level, but he can be tried out at corner and could move to strong safety if needed. … Very, very quick. Moves well and is fluid when he has to turn and fly. … A nice tackler who got better as his career went on. He worked to make himself a better all-around player.
Negatives: Not all that big. He plays bigger on the field than he actually is, and he could have a problem lasting if he has to get physical. … Not a blazer. He doesn't have the wheels to be a special corner and could need to be in the right scheme. … He might be a star special teamer or a nickel back and might not be worth a top 100 pick.

9. Jerrard Tarrant, Georgia Tech (FS) 6-0, 204
Post-Combine Skinny: The 4.62 isn't that big a deal considering he's a big, tough player, but the 14 reps of 220 were a bit disappointing. He was quick for a player of his size and he showed enough in the short drills to be happy, but he could stand to get a bit stronger.
Positives: Excellent size and he isn't afraid to use it. He's a free safety, but he's willing in run support and he shoves around receivers. … A former corner, he has the same sort of ball skills and can be used in a variety of ways. Extremely productive. … Just fast enough to get by. Not a blazer, but good enough.
Negatives: Character. He has the baggage of a sexual assault charge that was later dropped, but he missed the entire 2008 season. … Not all that strong. He's decent at jamming receivers, but he's not the most physical of defenders. … Needs more coaching. Tends to get sloppy with his technique, especially lunging for tackles.

10. Will Hill, Florida (FS) 6-1, 202
Post-Combine Skinny: It was an okay workout, but nothing that'll boost his stock. He's known for having the measureables, but he only ran a 4.65. His quickness in the shuttle and his 10'3" broad jump were enough to think he can be a free safety, but he might move to more of a run stopping role if he really is this slow.
Positives: The skills are there. He's big, he's fast, and he has the raw tools. If someone wants to be patient and work with him, he'll be a great vale pick. … Smooth. He's not going to explode, but he moves well and can work in any scheme. … Good in coverage. He'll provide a ton of help.
Negatives: Character, character, character. Too confident for his own good. Has three kids. … Way too inconsistent on the field. He's all over the place sometimes and isn't always in the right position. … Had a good career for the Gators, but he wasn't the dominant force he should've been. He started just 15 times in three years.

11. Shiloh Keo, Idaho (SS) 5-11, 219
Post-Combine Skinny: He's not an athlete, but everyone knew that. He was quick through the short drills and moved well, but the glacier-slow 4.73 hurt, but he caught everything that came his way. Nothing changed from what everyone already knew.
Positives: A baller. He won't measure well and he won't be fast, but he's a pure football player who does everything well on the field. … A great tackler. A good hitter who doesn't miss a stop. … Has seen it all over the last five years. He played in 54 games and is more than experienced and more than ready to go.
Negatives: Not an athlete. The straight line speed isn't there. … He's not going to do much in the NFL in coverage. He'll be more of a run defender and will be like a smallish linebacker. … Needs to be surrounded by good athletes. He isn't going to cover anyone one-on-one.

12. Jermale Hines, Ohio State (SS) 6-1, 219
Post-Combine Skinny: The 4.62 cemented him as a strong safety, and the 19 reps on the bench helped prove he's a tough, strong player. He measured big and was decent in the ball drills, a potential issue, but he didn't improve his stock.
Positives: A big, big hitter. Tough as they comes and he tackles with a punch. … Moves well to get to the ball. He takes great angles and is efficient in the way he gets to the ball. … Just athletic enough to be used as a free safety if desperately needed. He's versatile enough to be used in a variety of ways.
Negatives: Goes for the highlight reel hit way too often and misses a slew of easy ones. … Not great against the pass. Doesn't seem to have a feel when the ball is in the air. … Can get erased by blockers. Gets shoved around way too easily.

13. Chris Conte, California (FS) 6-2, 197
Post-Combine Skinny: A tall, thin player, he came up with a strong 18 reps to help his cause. The 4.60 40 wasn't that bad for a player for his size, and the 10'7" broad jump helped show off his athleticism.
Positives: Good size with a long, lean frame and good length. Plays a bit bigger than his size. … Always hustling. Makes a lot of plays on energy, desire, and want-to. … Always around the ball. Has a nice burst to get to the play at the last second.
Negatives: A good tackler, but not a dramatic one. He doesn't bring a lot of pop. … Not bulky. He can add a bit to his frame, but he's a free safety. … Okay in pass coverage, but he doesn't get over the top in a hurry. Is better when he gets to read and react.

14. Joe Lefeged, Rutgers (SS) 6-0, 210
Post-Combine Skinny: For some reason, the scouts don't seem to like him very much. He's a 4.43 runner with phenomenal explosion in his jumps and with good size. He's a great athlete, but he's still being seen mostly as top special teamer.
Positives: A smooth athlete who runs well on the field. He's a strong safety who could easily be a free safety. … A peerless special teamer. He'll be invaluable because of his versatility. He could be a good nickel or dime defender and a difference makeron special teams. … Always working. Plays to the whistle and beyond.
Negatives: Okay in coverage, but he's hardly anything special. Made just two picks in 50 games. … Doesn't do any one thing all that well for a defense. He'll make it on special teams. … Not a blazer. He tends to get a bit lost at times and makes tackles down the field.

15. Jeron Johnson, Boise State (SS) 5-10, 212
Post-Combine Skinny: Considering he's supposed to be a thick, bulky player, the 4.56 40 was nice and the 23 reps on the bench were better. It was an athletic enough workout to think that he can be used in any way as a safety.
Positives: A good athlete who can move well for a strong safety. … A rock. Built for the position with good thickness. He's a tough tackler who doesn't miss a stop. … A veteran. He started 44 games for Boise State and made 325 stops.
Negatives: Not all that huge. A bit short and squatty. … Athletic, but not necessarily smooth. Could struggle in coverage and isn't going to be a free safety. … Needs to be in a box. He's not going to provide too much help and isn't going to make a slew of big plays when the ball is in the air.

16. DeJon Gomes, Nebraska (SS) 5-11, 208
Post-Combine Skinny: He helped himself with a 4.51 40. He's not known as a great athlete and he wasn't always fluid, a bit stiff when he needed to change directions, but the great straight line speed was a good boost to his stock.
Positives: A willing and able all-around defender who'll play special teams, work at any position in the secondary, and will do whatever is needed. Coachable. … A good tackler. He handles himself well when it gets physical. … Strong in run support and doesn't miss too many stops. Makes a ton of big plays.
Negatives: Not a great athlete. Not fluid at all and doesn't turn without laboring. … A good ball-hawker in the loaded Nebraska secondary, but a lot of the plays happened to come his way. … A bit of a tweener. He's a linebacker in a safety's body.

17. Tejay Johnson, TCU (FS) 6-0, 212
Positives: A good leader for a fantastic defense. He was in control of one of the nation's best secondaries over the last few years. … Lots of experience. He's ready to roll out of the box and could become a whale of a nickel or dime back. … Moves just well enough. Not an elite athlete, but he's good enough.
Negatives: Not a pure tackler. He doesn't use his size well enough and he doesn't form hit. … Decent against the run and he's a willing hitter, but he's not an NFL playmaker in run support. … Will whiff too much against the run, and he's just decent against the pass. He's not a starter any time soon and needs to be a playmaker as a key backup.

18. David Sims, Iowa State (SS) 5-9, 200
Post-Combine Skinny: Moved extremely well and scooted well. He measured to be a short, stocky prospect, but he was compact, came up with 24 reps, and ran a nice 4.56.
Positives: A great tackler who's always around the ball. A statistical machine against the run. … Decent straight-line speed. He's great when he gets a bead on a ball carrier and is great at coming up with the right play at the right time. … Very strong. He's like a linebacker playing safety and he packs a wallop.
Negatives: A mediocre pass defender. Considering his skills, he doesn't have a feel for the passing game. … Stocky and thick, and he tends to move like it. A pure strong safety. … A bit small and will try to hit bigger than he really is.

19. Mark LeGree, Appalachian State (FS) 5-11, 210
Post-Combine Skinny: One of the scout favorites coming into Indy, he came through with the measurables everyone was hoping to see. The 4.56 40 showed he really can be a free safety, and the quickness in the shuttle and cone drills opened some eyes.
Positives: A superior ball-hawk. Intercepted everything that came his way, and a lot that didn't. Phenomenal ball skills. … Quick. Good enough speed to get by and is great in a straight line way. … Strong enough to be used as a strong safety. He's functionally and physically strong.
Negatives: Lacks elite athleticism. He was able to produce at the lower level and he was physical, but he doesn't quite have NFL level skills. … Not explosive. Doesn't cut and drive all that well and the picks that came in college won't be there at the next level. … Not necessarily a strong safety. A big hitter, but he might have a short shelf life if he's asked to play close to the line.

20. Nate Williams, Washington (SS) 6-0, 211
Post-Combine Skinny: He wasn't expected to be fast, and he wasn't with a painful 4.71 in the 40, but he was surprisingly quick for his size in the cone and flew through the shuttle. For a guy who's not supposed to be athletic, he looked it.
Positives: A fantastic tackler. Seemed to get in on every play and stopped plays cold helping out in run support. … A big hitter for his size. An intimidating force who can come up with the highlight reel pop. … A hard worker who battles. He'll fight to try to make a team and will do whatever is needed to stick.
Negatives: Doesn't move all that well. Extremely slow straightline speed. … Lacks the strength needed to be a regular big-hitter against the run. He'll get washed away in the trash way too often. … A great college player whose skills don't translate well to the pros.

21. Da'Norris Searcy, North Carolina (SS) 5-11, 223
Post-Combine Skinny: It was a nice Combine that should make him a late round pick. He's known for being a hitter, and the 4.58 40 and 27 reps were tremendous and showed off the measureables. The 60-yard drill was fantastic.
Positives: A decent hitter who brings the lumber when he gets to the ball. … A willing special teamer who can be used as a returner. Will do anything asked of him. … Has a nice feel for the game. Appears to always be around the ball.
Negatives: Marginal production. Played a lot of football but didn't make a ton of tackles. … Not all that athletic. He doesn't move as well as he should defensively for a guy who can return kicks. … The type of guy who's a tough cut and is the last one to either make a roster or the last guy to bring in the playbook. He'll have to stand out right away to stick in a camp.

22. Eric Hagg, Nebraska (FS) 6-1, 209
Post-Combine Skinny: Considering his worth is as a big, strong hitter, the 4.51 was extremely good and the 10'7" broad jump was fantastic. His issues are on the tap, but the workout will make the scouts go back to check him out.
Positives: Big. He's athletic enough to be a corner or a free safety and he has the size to be a factor who pushes people around. … Moves well. Covers like a corner and could be a killer of a Cover-2 safety. … Makes tackles. He's not a hitter, but he doesn't miss a stop.
Negatives: Doesn't always play up to his size. He's not going to intimidate anyone with his pop. … Made a ton of plays last year when people were staying away from Prince Amukamara, but was able to get picked on. … A bit measured. Good in a scheme, but doesn't freelance to make things happen.

23. Zac Etheridge, Auburn (SS) 5-11, 201
Positives: A good, willing run defender who made a lot of plays at a high level. Great in run support. … An effort guy. He'll do whatever is needed and will get his nose dirty to make a play. … Nice size and has the right attitude. He'll be a tough cut and could bounce around the league if he doesn't stick. Coachable.
Negatives: Not all that athletic. He tackles like a linebacker, but he also moves like one. … A frightening neck injury suffered two years ago will always be a concern. He's lucky to be walking, much less playing football. … Made three picks last year, but he has mediocre ball and coverage skills.

24. Jay Valai, Wisconsin (SS) 5-8, 203
Positives: A veteran who has done it all. He started the last three years for the Badgers and did a little bit of everything right. He's a good, strong tackler who played bigger than his size. … A good leader. He helped out a ton against gambling, suspect corners. … Brings it on every play with no regard for his body. He's big popper who likes to set the tempo.
Negatives: Always hurt. Had a variety of issues with illnesses, concussions, and other injuries. That's not going to stop in the NFL considering his size. … Not smooth enough in coverage. He's a strong safety only. … Size is a factor. He doesn't look the part and will get erased by anyone who blocks him.

25. Andrew Rich, BYU (SS, FS) 6-3, 213
Positives: A fantastic playmaker. He's as tough as nails and likes to hit. He's like a linebacker playing safety. … Great size. At 6-3 and 213 pounds, he has an intimidating look and he could add a few more pounds to his frame. … Has an uncanny knack for finding the ball. Great when it's in the air.
Negatives: Not necessarily as big a hitter as he should be for his size. He's a bit of a tweener for the secondary considering the way he plays. … Not quick. He doesn't move all that well for a free safety and he could quickly be exposed. … Lacks the straight-line speed. He's just not enough of an athlete to make a team if he doesn't rock on special teams.